Substitutes for Nutmeg

Sometimes, we come across a recipe in our quest of kitchen perfection that needs some assistance. Here are a few popular substitutes for nutmeg at home, so that you can substitute the nutmeg with your choice of spice as needed.

Nutmeg is one of those spices which has many uses for nearly any dish. Nutmeg can be used as a flavor enhancer to give dishes sweet or spicy notes. It can also be used to tenderize meat and dairy products such as cream or milk along with fruits and vegetables.

What is Nutmeg?

Nutmeg is very popular in the fall and winter months. It’s used in many recipes, including the classic eggnog beverage, pumpkin pie and lots of other dishes that make you feel at home on Thanksgiving. Nutmeg is actually a seed from an evergreen tree. The tree is native to Indonesia and the Philippines.

If you’ve ever tried to cut open a whole nutmeg fruit, you know that they are extremely hard and woody. They are also extremely pungent and have a flavor similar to that of a hazelnut. This makes it easy to smell why nutmeg was once used as a natural form of bug repellant, but only for outdoors because the odor is so strong!

The nutmeg tree produces a red fruit that contains two seeds inside. The seeds are cream colored and shaped like an oval. Most people prefer to use these whole because they can be freshly grated for the best flavor. However, whole nutmeg can be difficult to find in stores because it doesn’t last as long as ground nutmeg (and people tend to prefer ground).

What Does Nutmeg Taste Like?

Ground nutmeg takes on a warm and aromatic flavor with notes of clove. It pairs well with chocolate and cinnamon in desserts like brownies, cookies and cakes. Ground nutmeg works well as a substitute for cinnamon in savory dishes like rice pilaf, chicken casseroles and vegetable soups. Whole nutmeg has a bolder flavor than ground nutmeg due to its higher volatile oil content. It’s often used as a garnish on top of pumpkin pie or eggnog. Whole nuts are also steeped in hot milk to make delicious hot beverages such as chai lattes or mochas.

Best Alternatives To Nutmeg

Here are the most common substitutes for nutmeg. You can use any of these in your recipes. It is always good to know the alternatives in case you don’t have nutmeg at hand, or if you would like to spice up your dishes with something new.



Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the bark of a tree native to South Asia. It has been used for thousands of years in cooking, and its popularity spread throughout the world during Medieval times.

Today, cinnamon is popular in both savory dishes and desserts. It is often paired with items like apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, pumpkin, vanilla, honey, citrus fruits and walnuts. Spices like nutmeg and cloves are sometimes substituted for cinnamon in savory recipes (cinnamon tastes better with sweet foods).

Traditionally, cinnamon was sold in sticks. These days, it can also be bought ground at the grocery store. You might even find it as part of a spice mix (like pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice). Some people add cinnamon to baked goods or coffee before cooking to add flavor without adding fat.

In general, it’s best to buy whole cinnamon sticks and grind them yourself. Ground cinnamon loses its flavor quickly.


Mace is the outer covering of a nutmeg seed. The flavor of mace and nutmeg are quite similar, so if you can’t find mace, you can use nutmeg. Nutmeg is a more common ingredient in recipes than mace because it’s easier to come by.

Mace is the spice most similar to nutmeg, but if you’re not able to find it, there are a few other options. Cloves, ginger, cinnamon and allspice are good substitutes for nutmeg. If you don’t have any of these readily available spices, simply leave the nutmeg out entirely. Even though they may not taste exactly the same as having real nutmeg in your dish, they’re still tasty alternatives that will allow you to make your recipe without going out to buy any extra ingredients or special spices.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pumpkin Pie Spice

Depending on what recipe you are using, pumpkin pie spice is usually a blend of nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon. It can also include cloves, mace, cardamom and coriander. In fact, when you use pumpkin pie spice as a substitute for nutmeg in recipes, you will end up getting some actual nutmeg in your recipe as well as several other spices that also work well as a nutmeg substitute.

Taste tests have shown that most people enjoy the taste of pumpkin pie spice better than the taste of nutmeg. But if you’re looking to avoid nutmeg because of an allergic reaction to it or if you want to know what the other spices are in pumpkin pie spice, then you’ll want to learn how to replace the nutmeg called for in your favorite recipe with another spice or spices.

The best way to replace the nutmeg in your favorite recipe with another spice is by choosing a spice blend that includes either the same spices found in pumpkin pie spice or other spices commonly used as substitutes for nutmeg. The ingredients found in pumpkin pie spice offer different textures and tastes so they will give your recipe something that nutmeg alone cannot provide.

Ground Cloves

Cloves and nutmeg both come from trees native to Indonesia. Cloves have been used in cuisines all over the world, while nutmeg is more often used in baking or as a spice. They are very similar in taste and look, but ground cloves are much more pungent and peppery than nutmeg.

You can substitute ground cloves for nutmeg, but use about two-thirds less of it, as you’ll end up with a much sharper result. You can also use whole cloves instead of ground cloves, but again use half as much to avoid overdoing it..

In recipes that call for both cloves and nutmeg, the two spices should be used in equal amounts. But if a recipe calls for one of these spices on its own, you could use a little extra to compensate for the missing ingredient if you prefer.

Garam Masala

Garam Masala
Garam Masala

Garam masala is a blend of spices found in Indian and Pakistani dishes. It is commonly used, but many people do not know what it is or how to use it.

The name garam masala translates to warm spice blend in Hindi, and that’s exactly what it is. The warmness comes from the cinnamon and cloves. There are also several other spices included in the blend, such as nutmeg, peppercorn, mace, and cumin.

Garam masala is mainly used to season meat dishes, which makes sense since it contains both cinnamon and cloves. It can be used in place of other spices, but it should never be used in place of nutmeg. Nutmeg has a very sweet flavor, while garam masala has a more savory taste.

You can use garam masala by adding it to your dish as you would most any other spice—just sprinkle a little on top or mix it into your food with a knife or fork before serving. Use the same amount of garam masala as you would nutmeg for better results for recipes. When cooking with this spice blend, keep in mind that adding too much will make your food overpowering.



The ginger is the underground stem of a tropical plant (Zingiber officinale) and has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It has been cultivated in India, China and Jamaica since the time of Christ. It was also brought to Europe by the returning Crusaders.

In the sixteenth century, ginger was first used to flavor beer, which became known as ginger beer. It became very popular in England and America. By the 19th century, when it was discovered that fresh ginger could be preserved on its own, the market for ginger beer decreased significantly.

Toss out your nutmeg and replace it with ground ginger. Ground ginger is more expensive than nutmeg but can be stored at room temperature for many months without losing its flavor. The taste of ground ginger is similar to nutmeg with a little more bite to it. This root will work great in savory dishes as a substitute for nutmeg; however, I don’t recommend using it in desserts.

It’s important not to confuse dried ground ginger with fresh whole ginger root. Dried ground ginger does not have the same flavor or texture as fresh whole root. It’s often used in baking or cooking because it lasts a lot longer and doesn’t spoil easily.


Overall, nutmeg is a great spice to have on hand, but there are many good alternatives. I would recommend having at least one of these in your pantry. It’s definitely nice to experiment with the different types of spices available and come up with variations on a particular dish you like. In the end, it all depends on what you’re looking for.

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